The tragic, pathetic story of Aden Oliver Baker is a sadly familiar one. A grown-up problem child whose unchecked neuroses build to an exaggerated finale in a killing spree, and who leaves behind a self-pitying ‘manifesto’ that lays bear the dots that no one in their right mind would have thought to connect.
“The ultimate truth of Aden’s psyche is splattered all over a car in Manchester, New Hampshire.”
The bulk of Marc Cage’s book intercuts choice extracts from the fictional memoir with the transcript of a fictional YouTube ‘presentation’ that’s also written in character, offering a scathing commentary on the affair and the debates that blew up in its aftermath.
It’s well thought-out and very realistic – pointless pop culture digressions and all – but once the biography’s over with and we get mired in the vlogger’s reaction to the feminist reaction and other anti-PC tangents, it does feel like we’re spending a lot of time analysing something that didn’t actually happen.
Whenever I read through detailed descriptions of footage that doesn’t exist (Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves comes to mind), I wish I could just watch it instead. Making a real fake YouTube video would have been the more satisfying way to go. A lot more challenging and time-consuming too, which is presumably why we just get the script, but that still leaves the nagging feeling that we’re reading a book that wishes it didn’t have to be a book.
It’s only in the extended ‘epilogue’ that we get a sense of how Lippy Kids might hold together as a series. We meet the brains behind the video and learn a little about their lives and their nascent YouTube and podcasting empire, but it’s all too brief to form an attachment.
What subject will pique their morbid curiosity next? A fictional crackpot conspiracy theory? A thinly veiled satire of the state of American politics? Will we get to spend more than a single chapter with the characters? The possibilities are endless.